Imbalance of the Nerve Growth Factor and Its Precursor: Implication in Diabetic Retinopathy

Riyaz Mohamed, Azza B El-Remessy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in working age in US and worldwide. Neurotrophins including nerve growth factor (NGF), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) and neurotrophin-4 (NT-4) are known to be essential for growth, differentiation and survival of neurons in the developing and mature retina. Nevertheless, a growing body of evidence supports an emerging role of neurotrophins in retinal diseases and in particular, diabetic retinopathy. Neurotrophins are initially synthesized in a pro-form and undergo proteolytic cleavage to produce the mature form that activates two distinctive receptors, the tyrosine kinase tropomycin receptor (Trk) and, to lesser extent, the common low affinity p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75NTR). Despite tight glycemic and metabolic control, many diabetic patients continue to experience progressive retinal damage. Understanding the molecular events involved in diabetic retinopathy is extremely important to identify novel therapeutic strategies to halt the disease progression. Diabetes induces imbalance in neurotrophins by increasing its proform, which is associated with upregulation of the p75NTR receptor in the retina. A growing body of evidence supports a link between the imbalance of pro-neurotrophins and early retinal inflammation, neuro-and microvascular degeneration. Therefore, examining changes in the levels of neurotrophins and its receptors might provide a therapeutically beneficial target to combat disease progression in diabetic patients. This commentary aims to highlight the impact of diabetes-impaired balance of neurotrophins and in particular, the NGF and its receptors; TrkA and p75NTR in the pathology of DR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of clinical & experimental ophthalmology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2015


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